When 20-year-old World War II veteran Julius Rainwater was discharged on Jan. 27, 1946, he called his mother to say he would be home the next day. She told her son that dinner and family would be waiting. Then he called his girlfriend and future wife, Gloria.
"Gloria and her mother picked me up from Fort McPherson. Gloria was 17 and the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen," Rainwater said. "I imagined her saying, 'Kiss me, soldier boy,' but of course her mom was in the car."
That story became the title of the book, "Kiss Me Soldier Boy," Rainwater wrote and published this year which details the Rainwater family tree of military service. Rainwater will hold a book signing at Conyers Pharmacy on West Avenue from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 26.
The sixth of 10 children, his family struggled during the Great Depression. "We were so poor that the poor people called us poor," he said.
Rainwater was 7 years old when his father passed away.
"Mom taught school, tended the Atlanta Public Library at night and sold corsets on weekends. She refused handouts," he said. "I'd sell flower bouquets with a younger brother in downtown Atlanta. The $2 or $3 profit helped put food on the table."
Fascinated by new automobile radios, Rainwater began a lifelong love with radio technology and communications. Too young to enlist after Pearl Harbor, he stayed in school, graduated from Hapeville High and attended Georgia Tech to study a special class in radio technology. After his 18th birthday in 1943, Rainwater joined the Army.
He attended basic and Signal Corps training at Fort Monmouth, N.J.
"I was assigned to the 3922 U.S. Army Signal Corps, a collection of Yankees and one poor Georgia Cracker, me," he said smiling. Rainwater trained to set up and operate fixed communication stations under battlefield conditions and by the spring of 1944, Rainwater boarded a Liberty ship en route to the Pacific.
"We crowded into the belly of the ship and listened to and smelled diesel engines day and night," he explained. "To clean our underwear we'd tie them to a long rope and drag them in ocean water for about an hour; then dry them on the deck."
First assignment: Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
"We worked inside the dormant volcano at Diamond Head," he said. "Elevators took us down to the top secret operations and radio communications facilities."
One daily visitor was Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet. Rainwater received extensive training in all aspects of the Signal Crops Fixed Station operations, but he knew the off-duty perks like Waikiki Beach, continued education, and skinny dipping under mountain waterfalls wouldn't last long.
In July 1944, the 3922nd and hundreds of infantry troops boarded Liberty ships for unknown destinations. During the voyage, Rainwater continued his studies from the U.S. Armed Forces Institute: physics, geometry, trigonometry, and algebra books littered his below-deck bunk.
"A buddy and I also got permission from the ship's captain to publish a single-page paper called, 'The Poop Deck' (a ship's afterdeck). The Poop Deck became so popular the ship's captain offered us a vacant bedroom on the bridge with the officers. We ate chow with them, too," he said. "It was a lot better than K-rations and stinky noisy bunks."
During the long voyage his convoy listened to Japanese propaganda in English by the infamous female broadcaster, Tokyo Rose.
"She played American music," Rainwater said. "One day she named every ship in our convoy then claimed they had all been sunk. That sure was news to us."
The convoy headed to the Palau Islands as Marines slugged it out for control in the battle of Peleliu.
"The Marines paid a horrible price for our safety, but Peleliu was fairly secure by the time we arrived."
Rainwater and the 3922nd built a communication shack while the engineers built an airstrip for B-29 bombers.
"Japanese holdouts still roamed the hills," Rainwater said. "And Zeros would still buzz the island, drop bombs or strafe. We would have to take cover in caves."
From behind a locked door to the decrypting room, verbal messages were sent by Navaho Indians in their own language.
Rainwater explained, "The Japanese didn't break our codes because nobody in Japan spoke Navajo. It drove them bonkers."
Victory in Europe arrived on May 8, 1945.
"We celebrated like crazy. They rolled out bourbon, scotch, and gin," he recalled and teetotaler Julius Rainwater woke up in a small ditch 100 yards from his barracks the next morning. "I was so sick I promised God I'd never drink again." he said.
The war in the Pacific raged on.
In June 1945, the 3922nd boarded another troop ship for Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands.
Still working with decrypting and codes, Rainwater said, "We'd watch hundreds of B-29s take off for Japan. When the last one took off, others started landing from their missions. The engines roared 24 hours a day, week after week."
On Aug. 4, 1944, orders came down to pack the duffle bags. Destination: rumor had it, the invasion of Japan. Two atomic bombs canceled the voyage.
Of four brothers and two brothers-in-law that served their country, all six made it home.
Rainwater and Gloria married in 1946. He completed his education at Georgia Tech in electrical engineering then took a job with the Warren Company in Atlanta. Twenty-seven years later, Rainwater retired from Warren in Conyers, and started his own business with a partner, Grant Brown. Citizens in Rockdale County know the business as Hill Phoenix on Sigman Road.
Pete Mecca is a Vietnam veteran and author of "A Veteran's Story," a regular feature of the Citizen. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.